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Say Joe Moorhead Leaves, Who’s Next?

Uncovering potential candidates should Moorhead become the next Mississippi State head coach

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Late Monday night, Dan Wolken of USA Today broke the news that Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was a candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Mississippi State University.

While it’s since been reported that Moorhead may not be the first option for the Bulldogs, with Alabama and Clemson defensive coordinators Jeremy Pruitt and Brent Venables reportedly heading the list, the fact that we’ve reached this point means it’s time to start discussing a list of candidates to replace Moorhead should he go.

Ricky Rahne

We start the list with the most obvious and I think most fitting candidate. Rahne, who years as James Franklin’s quarterbacks coach before switching over to tight ends, is thought of as one of the harder working and brighter assistant coaching minds among those in coaching circles. Like Brent Pry in 2016, Rahne going from position coach to coordinator would be a rather seamless transition for Penn State that would see little effect on recruiting. In his time working with Moorhead, Rahne has had ample opportunity to learn a system that it would appear Franklin likes to run and would very likely keep it largely in tact.

Troy Walters

Walters, the currently offensive coordinator for Scott Frost at Central Florida, has seen his name pop up among some head coaching searches in the last week. He has been a large part of a Golden Knights offense that has topped 40 points in eight of 11 games and have topped 60 points twice. Like Moorhead, Walters likes to spread defenses out and relies on the quarterback to make the right read in both the run and pass games. Could Walters see Penn State as a potential launching pad to a head coaching job after seeing Moorhead do it before him?

Sterlin Gilbert

Like Walters, Gilbert is currently at the reins of an a high powered offense at a directional university in Florida. Gilbert is the offensive coordinator under Charlie Strong at South Florida and while the Bulls haven’t put up quite the eye-popping numbers that the Citronauts have, they’ve not been too shabby. South Florida has topped 40 points five times on the year, including hanging 47 on Illinois and 61 on East Carolina. Gilbert also coached under Strong at Texas, meaning he’s built recruiting ties in two of the most talent rich states in the nation. Would he leave Strong? Maybe not. But like Walters, the opportunity to show his stuff on a bigger stage could be alluring.

Mark Helfrich

You mean the TV guy who failed at Oregon and doesn’t have any East Coast ties? Yes, I know Helfrich would be a long shot, but he’s at least worth discussing here. Helfrich is the former offensive coordinator for Chip Kelly at Oregon before taking over the head coaching job in 2013 and being fired after the 2016 season. He’s never coached east of Boise and spent last year calling games for FOX. However, his time under Kelly speaks for itself. Helfrich was twice named the national quarterbacks coach of the year in 2010 and 2012. He has a career head coaching record of 37-16 and reached the national championship game in 2014. His offenses averaged north of 40 points every season from 2010 to 2015, and his lowest average came in 2016 with 35 points per game. While Helfrich may want to stay back west and could even end up back with Kelly at UCLA, it’s worth a phone call.

Mike Yurcich

Yurcich, the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, may soon be a head coach and may not be looking to make a lateral move. We all know T. Boone Pickens can pay through the nose for assistants and money wouldn’t be the thing that could pull Yurcich to Penn State. He is, however, very comfortable with the Pennsylvania area. Yurcich is a 1999 graduate of California University of Pennsylvania. He then spent six years coaching at Edinboro University before making his way to Shippensburg University for two seasons. Yurcich would undoubtedly be a home run hire for Franklin, even if it may seem unrealistic at first glance.

One name conspicuously absent from the list is Andrew Breiner. Breiner, a 2006 Lock Haven University graduate, is the current Fordham head coach and served as Moorhead’s offensive coordinator before the latter came to Penn State. Breiner went 8-3 in 2016, but struggled to a 4-7 record in 2017 and his offense put up just 20.8 points per game. While Breiner is unquestionably an impressive young football mind, I’m not sure Franklin is quite ready to turn over his offense to somebody without a strong track record of his own.